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With the election less than two weeks away, I again urge the citizens of District 38 to vote. This is not only a civic duty but also a privilege that we have in this free country.
You may vote at your designated polling place on Tuesday, November 3rd. Polls open at 8 a.m. (7a.m MT) and close at 8 p.m. (7p.m. MT). If you have requested an early voting ballot or live in a county that mails ballots to all registered voters, your ballot needs to be received (by mail or delivered in person) by your county election official’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Early voting ballots must be received by mail or be returned during regular business hours, or deposited in the drop box located outside the office — every county has at least one.
As I previously wrote, you need to take a very close look at all of the candidates, both federal and local. Good websites to find information on the federal elections are: ballotpedia.org and FRCAction.org. Some of the major issues you may wish to consider include:
While there are many other issues for you to also consider, the choices this year are in stark contrast to each other. Upon examining the issues, you need to decide what candidates are best not only for you; but also for your families, your community and the future prosperity, freedom and security of our country.
The second Monday in October has traditionally been recognized as “Columbus Day”. Since the Legislature passed LB 848 this year, it will subsequently be known as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day”. While the original bill wanted to completely remove “Columbus Day”, a compromise was reached to include both designations.
In promoting revisionist history, we have recently seen many examples of dismissing or maligning historical figures and founding fathers; and we have seen the toppling or vandalizing statutes such as Christopher Columbus. While he was not a perfect man, I believe that his legacy has been unfairly attacked.
Living during the “Age of Exploration”, Columbus was arguably the greatest sailor of his day and courageously explored lands previously unknown to western civilization. He was a devout Catholic who was reportedly a humble man. He made four voyages to the Americas between 1492 and 1504.
Revisionists are quick to blame Columbus for things he did not do but rather, were done by those who came after him. Upon landing on San Salvador, he had a favorable impression of the indigenous people and instructed his sailors not to take advantage of them. He later hung some of his own men who committed crimes against the native people. He then adopted the son of a Native American leader who had died. While Columbus may accurately be accused of subsequent mismanagement he has inaccurately been maligned, most recently by those citing the writings of a political rival.
Rather than joining the popular culture that wants to subject Columbus to the trash bin of history and erase his memory, a more thorough and balanced examination of his life is warranted. Clearly, his legacy and accomplishments deserve to be recognized because it has shaped the world we live in today
With less than 40 days until the election, campaigns are out in full force trying to earn your vote. Whether it is through phone calls, door-to-door canvassing, or the necessary evil of fundraisers, candidates and their teams are putting in long days with very little sleep. All of this highlights the importance of your power as a citizen to vote.
Most of the focus this election cycle is on the Presidential election. A couple of good websites to find information on the Presidential elections are: FRCAction.org, and ballotpedia.org.
I urge you to take a very close look at your candidates for legislature, school board, county commissioner, city council, etc. The closer the level of government is to you, the more it will have an effect on your day-to-day life. Do you want lower property taxes? A good way to ensure lower property taxes is to elect school board members who would hold your levy the same or decrease the levy if valuations go up. One way to find candidates for the state legislature who are friendly to agriculture and will most likely vote for property tax relief is to “google” NEFB-PAC and find the September 10, 2020 Friends of Agriculture endorsements.
This country was founded on Christian principles, limited government and individual responsibility. We need to continue to seek those principles in choosing our elected officials. Be informed about the candidates as well as the important issues of the day.
Early voting request forms should have been sent out to each one of you. If you have not received one and would like to vote by mail, please contact your local county election office. Early voting ballots started being sent out September 28th.
The election is November 3rd. This is your best chance to influence the direction of your government. Please vote. Thomas Jefferson said, and I quote, “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
September 4th was the last day to sign onto the petition to call a special session of the Legislature to address racism/police powers/crimes and COVID-19 issues. The petition required 33 signatures to hold a special session, and it fell short of that number. I did not sign on for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the increased cost to the taxpayer.
While these are very important issues, I do not believe a special session gives enough time to adequately address them. A special session would lead to a rushed process which would eliminate the opportunity for many to testify on these complicated issues. I believe that during the next Legislative session starting in January, there will be a number of bills dealing with these issues which will provide a better chance for a variety of individuals to be heard.
We can make other changes to fight racism as well. Lack of school choice is a big issue for minority populations. There needs to be a way for students to be able to leave an underperforming school and receive assistance to attend a better performing school. Also, we need to remove the many abortion clinics that are in and around areas that are populated mostly by minorities. These clinics have a horrible, racist history of attempting to slow the increase in number of certain races by targeting them.
The breakdown of the family has been a problem in our country for decades across all demographics. It has been especially troubling in the black community. As a society we must encourage families to stay together.
As always, we must continue to look for ways to improve law enforcement. The worst thing we could do is defund the police. Everyone, no matter what our race, wants to be protected from criminals, thieves, drug dealers, etc.
We have had an overwhelming response to COVID-19 from the federal, state, and local governments. COVID-19 is a continuing issue, but soon our focus must turn to paying for the dramatic increase in spending that has occurred.
Finally, I want to bring to your attention two events that are happening on September 12th. Both are being put on by Nebraskans for Founders’ Values at the Hastings Evangelical Free Church. The first is a workshop that discusses the legislative process and how a bill becomes a law. It will be from 10-11:45 a.m. and will feature Lieutenant Governor Foley as the featured speaker. The second is a Constitution Day lunch with featured speaker Senator Julie Slama, who in a very short time has become a star in the legislature. Registration begins at noon, and closing ceremonies will take place at 2 p.m. You can RSVP to both by contacting Mark at 402-490-8612 or email@example.com; or Marilyn at 402-660-2323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions or concerns please contact my office at 402-471-2732, by email at email@example.com, or by visiting my Facebook page.
A bill I was privileged to introduce over the past two years was LB 705, which dealt with ABLE accounts. ABLE accounts offer tax free savings options for education, housing, and other needs of a disabled person. These accounts allow those who are disabled to receive donations from family or friends and not have such donations count against their income that would otherwise put them over the income cap for receiving assistance.
Previously, upon death, ABLE accounts were only allowed to be transferred to the ABLE account of a disabled sibling of the original owner. Otherwise the funds would be given back to the state. Very few families have more than one child that is disabled, so most of the funds were being given back to the state to do with what they wanted. Those funds should be able to go to someone else who has an ABLE account. How many of us have disabled family members or even best friends who we would love to be able to help out if we could? LB 705 allows those with ABLE accounts to help those family members and friends by allowing them to transfer their ABLE account to anyone with an ABLE account. This legislation removes a major objection to those who have been reluctant to previously fund ABLE accounts and encourages private donations to continue to help those with ABLE accounts; without the fear that the government would claw back those funds.
ABLE accounts open doors for their owners. They can use this money for education, to attain job training, for work transportation, medical appointments, and any other essential assistance such as help with bathing, dressing, walking, toileting, eating, and needed supervision.
I was glad to have the support of Treasurer Murante’s office, ARC of Nebraska, First National Bank, and ABLE account owners and their families. Thanks to their support, LB 705 passed unanimously at the end of session and was signed into law by Governor Ricketts on August 6th.
This was supposed to be a session of hope for those wanting property tax relief. Instead, we got delays, fighting, and a last minute “grand” compromise that does not do nearly enough for property taxpayers, especially farmers.
I really thought we had a chance at substantial property tax relief. Senator Linehan’s LB 974 and LB 1106 were both bills that would have done at least a serviceable job at providing relief. Both of those bills were held up by the major school districts in Omaha and Lincoln and the senators that represent those districts.
Senator Linehan repeatedly brought stakeholders to the table, trying to determine the best way to achieve property tax relief while addressing some the concerns of the schools. Everyone knew that the other two major issues in the compromise, business incentives and the NExT project, would not be passed without property tax relief.
In the middle of negotiations, COVID-19 hit. This presented a major problem for getting everyone together to negotiate.
Finally, we were brought back for 13 days of session, and we only had around ten of those to get a deal done that would give the Legislature enough time to pass the bill through all three rounds of voting. LB 1107 is what ended up as the result.
I am not happy with the very limited relief our property taxpayers are receiving in LB 1107. The bill will actually only provide a decrease to the increase in property taxes over time. I did vote for the bill because it is at least a step in the right direction to provide some nominal relief.
Property tax relief will be a continuing struggle and ultimately Nebraska needs a complete restructuring of its tax system to achieve equity and fairness. That will most likely never come through the Legislature and may take a vote of the people.
The fight for property tax relief is not over, we will work over the interim and start again next session. It remains to be seen how receptive the rest of the Legislature will be. We will have to wait until after the November elections to see if the makeup of the Legislature will be inclined to spend less. That is the only way to truly cut taxes.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact my office at 402-471-2732, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or my Facebook page.
We just finished up what was a very unconventional session. It is definitely different than anybody could have imagined when we convened in January. Thanks to COVID-19, Nebraskans have changed the way they live their lives. Whether it was the lockdowns, wearing a mask in public being a common occurrence, employees working from home, and the loss of life and the economic impact the virus has had, our world has been changed.
Another big topic this session was the status of the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers. Early in the session, there was vandalism at the Geneva YRTC by some of the girls who lived there. The Department of Health and Human Services removed the girls from Geneva and moved them to the YRTC in Kearney, which currently houses the boys. Since then, as part of the Health and Human Services Committee, I have worked with other members of the committee to determine how to get the girls back to a safe place of their own with their own programming. We must do our best to get these youths back on the right track to live successful lives.
In the package of bills we passed near the end of session, the Legislature delayed DHHS’s plan to move the girls to the Hastings Regional Center which is currently being used for those male youths with substance use disorders. Under the plan, those male youth would be transferred to Lincoln. Those moves were planned to take place this fall. Under the bills passed, the date for the girls to move to Hastings has been delayed until 2021. However, on August 7th, we received word that DHHS was planning on moving ahead with the transfer of the male youth from Hastings to Lincoln. We certainly don’t want to put two once-successful programs at risk by moving the successful substance use disorder program from Hastings to Lincoln and moving the YRTC girls into housing in Hastings that was not properly built to house them. Myself, as a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, along with Senator Halloran, who represents Hastings, are closely monitoring the situation and any further developments.
Finally, the biggest issue of the session was the work on property tax relief, business incentives, the University’s NEXT project, and the compromise that was reached to pass all three. That will be the focus of my next letter.
We have some major challenges that still face us and will continue to face us for years to come. It is important that we have the leadership at all levels of government to do so. That is why I encourage all of you to do your research on candidates for office and vote in November.
In a little bit of office news, my Legislative Aide, Elizabeth Todsen, will be leaving the office at the end of session. She is moving to Washington, D.C., with her fiancée to further her career and start grad school. We will miss her in the office and wish her the best. I have hired John Adams, J.D., to replace her and couldn’t be more excited to have him.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact my office by phone at (402)-471-2732, by email at email@example.com, or through my Facebook page.
The pandemic and the governmental response to it have caused serious damage to our economy. Many people are hurting economically. Unemployment is at an all time high in the United States. Many that are still working have been forced to take cuts in hours and/or pay. Many business owners and farmers are taking huge losses in earnings or are losing their businesses entirely. As a result, tax revenues in Nebraska and in the United States will be reduced drastically.
There are some great examples of public servants near the top of the pay scale who have sacrificed to do their part due to the uncertain future as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The School Board from South Central Nebraska Unified School District #5 has voted unanimously to forgo scheduled salary increases for administrative staff. Spread between five positions the reductions in the budget totals $29,232. A 1% percent increase in health insurance benefits has been approved. It took courage by both the school board and the staff to accomplish this agreement. The taxpayers appreciate your sacrifice!
Then there are school districts in the state where voters need to hold school boards and administrators more accountable. An example is the Omaha metro area. Westside Community Schools board recently voted to raise the base pay of the Superintendent by 2.5% or $5,750 to $235,750 per year.. The contract also includes a performance bonus of $5,000 and a retention bonus of $5,000 that could be included if he stays with the district through June 1st, 2021. Papillion-LaVista Community Schools proposed a 1% salary increase which equates to $2,373 for a total of $239,675. Bellevue Public Schools board approved a 3.6% salary increase of $8,364 for a total of $240,044.
The Omaha Public School board recently considered an extension of their Superintendents contract through 2023 in which the base salary of $300,000 would not change but she would be allowed to convert unused vacation days into cash. When this position was open just a few years ago there were 74 applications for the job. Apparently the pay was not a limiting factor in drawing in applicants. In rural areas it is hard to attract a pool of applicants for administrative candidates, even with a generous salary.
Another idea of where there could be potential for sacrifice because of the loss of taxpayer revenue would be the administration of our University. The University and President Carter are doing a good job during this challenging time. However, President Carter is paid a compensation package estimated at $1.2 Million annually. This makes him one of the highest paid University Presidents in the nation. Other administrative salaries can’t be far behind. We all need to sacrifice during these difficult times.
Governor Ricketts compared the original health care directives imposed on the economy of Nebraska to driving 5mph down Interstate 80. As some of the directives are eased, I hope we can immediately accelerate to 60 mph and then completely to 75 mph. We have to get the economy moving again without taking unnecessary risks.
Physical distancing, reduced capacities, face masks, temperature checks, and other common sense precautions must be used wherever practical at least on a temporary basis. We must focus protection on close working environments such as packing plants. Also medical and long term care facilities must be protected. There is considerable risk of not opening up as quickly as possible. We could see permanent damage to our economy and even our American way of life.
As the legislature went into a temporary recess in March, several costly issues were left unaddressed. By far the most important grassroots issue being relief from the economic burden of Nebraska’s repressive property taxes. The bill on the table to do so was LB 1106. The bill, introduced by Speaker Scheer, would add approximately 100 million per year for state aid to public schools, thus lowering local property taxes by the same amount reaching a total of 300 million by the third and final year of its implementation.
A second issue was LB 720, otherwise known as the ImagiNE Act. The ImagiNE Act is the most important issue of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and the corporate business lobby. It would replace the soon to sunset Nebraska Advantage Act. By the third year of its implementation, the ImagiNE Act is estimated to add an additional 50 million to the Revenue Department’s already forecasted 180 million loss of the existing Advantage Act obligations.
The Legislature was also presented with a demand from Nebraska voters. They voted to mandate that the state fund medicaid expansion. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated medicaid expansion could add $62 million to the state budget by 2023.
We also need to address prison overcrowding as it has become an urgent issue in Nebraska. The Department of Corrections has proposed leasing a 1,200 -1,800 bed facility at a cost of approximately $70 million per year.
All of this new state spending is expected to be paid for by a projected 4.5% annual historic revenue growth which amounts to approximately $225 million per year.
In addition to all of this spending, the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center has requested that the Legislature appropriate $50 million per year over six years. This would be used to attract a $1.5 billion federal investment in a Department of Defense pilot program that would build a hospital in Omaha. The hospital would provide thousands of jobs and increase tax revenues to the state by about $50 million.
None of the above will be done without getting our economy back to near normal quickly. A poor economy hurts everyone, especially those near the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. As I have said before, the cure cannot be worse than the disease. We must get back to 75 mph.
In response to COVID-19 our office is closed for precautionary reasons. We are working remotely and can still help. If you need help please call (402)471-2732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
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